South Carolina is entering the solar big leagues

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Following the lead established by North Carolina, the South is starting to heat up as one of the most important regional markets for large-scale solar in the United States. As a few highlights, since the beginning of 2019 we’ve seen Florida Power & Light announce plans to put online 30 million PV modules by 2030, Georgia regulators mandate that Georgia Power install 2 GW of solar over the next five years, and Dominion open a solicitation for 500 MW of solar in Virginia.

South Carolina is also one of the emerging stars of the region. In the first quarter of 2019 the state was the 5th-largest solar market in the United States, but more importantly this spring South Carolina passed the Energy Freedom Act.

Among other changes, advocates say this landmark legislation will drive implementation of PURPA contracts for projects sitting in queues, introduce greater transparency for utilities’ long-term planning and give regulators the option to require all-source solicitations for projects larger than 75 MW.

All of this is expected to boost the state’s utility-scale solar market, which rose in 2016 and 2017 but contracted in 2018.

Today Cypress Creek and Cubico Sustainable Investments added to South Carolina’s momentum by formally commissioning the state’s largest solar plant to date, the 106 MWdc Palmetto Plains project in Orangeburg County.

Cypress Creek served as developer as well as engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for Palmetto Plains, which features First Solar’s legacy Series 4 modules mounted on single-axis tracking.

And the company is not stopping there, as Cypress Creek also recently began construction on another 100 MWdc project in Orangeburg County.

According to the latest numbers from Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Palmetto Plains put the state at more than 886 MWdc, and the addition of Huntley should move it to at least 986 MW; although as other installations including rooftop solar arrays are also underway the state will likely be above 1 GW when Huntley goes online.

Cypress Creek is responsible for a fair share of this. Palmetto Plains is the 22nd solar plant that the company has built in South Carolina, for a total of 375 MW. And its job does not stop when the plants are interconnected, as it will be supplying operations and maintenance (O&M) services for both the Palmetto Plains and Huntley solar plants.